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Artificial Intelligence for Economic Development Conference: Roundup of 27 presentations

Maria Jones's picture

Is artificial intelligence the future for economic development? Earlier this month, a group of World Bank staff, academic researchers, and technology company representatives convened at a conference in San Francisco to discuss new advances in artificial intelligence. One of the takeaways for Bank staff was how AI technologies might be useful for Bank operations and clients. Below you’ll find a full round-up of all the papers and research-in-progress that was presented. All slides that were shared publicly are linked here, as well as papers or other relevant sites.

Raising the bar on responsible tax for a sustainable future

Rajiv Joshi's picture

Les politiques démographiques similaires adoptées ces dernières décennies par la République de Corée et la Thaïlande ont porté leurs fruits : grâce au déclin de la fécondité, la population active adulte a augmenté et, partant, la productivité.

Understanding the informal economy in African cities: Recent evidence from Greater Kampala

Angus Morgan Kathage's picture
Informal metal worker in Katwe, Kampala. Photo: Angus Morgan Kathage/World Bank

The informal sector is a large part of employment in African cities. The International Labour Organization estimates that more than 66% of total employment in Sub-Saharan African is in the informal sector. With a pervasive informal sector, city governments have been struggling with how best to respond. On the one hand, a large informal sector often adds to city congestion, through informal vending and transport services, and does not contribute to city revenue. Furthermore, informal enterprises are typically characterized by low productivity, low wages and non-exportable goods and services. On the other hand, the informal sector provides crucial livelihoods to the most vulnerable of the urban poor. 

Taxes for Better Health: Making the Case at the Joint Learning Network

Patricio V. Marquez's picture
Cities are critical engines of global growth. But as cities grow, they’re increasingly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters.
 
The year of 2017 was one of many recent reminders of that “new normal”—from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that pounded coastal United States and the Caribbean to the severe drought that struck Somali, which led to the displacement and even life losses of individuals and families.
 
Even when lives are not threatened, livelihoods are at stake: Without major action taken to invest in urban resilience, climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents back into poverty by 2030.
 
[Report: Investing in Urban Resilience]

This helps explain why many city leaders attending the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week resonate with the same message: Sustainable cities are resilient cities.
 
At the forum, we spoke with national, municipal, and civil society leaders on the issue of urban resilience—including ministers and mayors from three Latin American countries, a region full of emerging cities and aspiring populations that are no stranger to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. 
 
Watch the videos below and leave a comment to let us know what your city may be doing differently to enhance urban resilience.
 
 


Michael Berkowitz
President, 100 Resilient Cities

Sustainable mobility and citizen engagement: Korea shows the way

Julie Babinard's picture

The risks inherent in public-private partnerships (PPPs) are real. These long-term projects require substantial investment: typically, PPP project funding structures constitute 70 to 80 percent debt, with the remaining coming from equity sources. Because of the nature of these projects, their loan repayment profile demands a longer tenor. In a practical sense, once lenders start disbursing funds to a PPP, the loans could remain on their balance sheet for around 20 years. This is a typical scenario.

For such prolonged engagement in PPP projects, lenders’ ability to monitor the project during the construction and operation phase becomes critical. The approach to monitoring we’ve been offered so far serves its purpose up to a point, but promising developments in real-time data monitoring have the potential to serve as effective early warning signals—assuring the success of a PPP in ways that could revolutionize certain sectors.

How to attract and motivate passionate public service providers

David Evans's picture

In Gaile Parkin's novel Baking Cakes in Kigali, two women living in Kigali, Rwanda – Angel and Sophie – argue over the salary paid to a development worker: "Perhaps these big organisations needed to pay big salaries if they wanted to attract the right kind of people; but Sophie had said that they were the wrong kind of people if they would not do the work for less. Ultimately they had concluded that the desire to make the world a better place was not something that belonged in a person's pocket. No, it belonged in a person's heart."
 
It's not a leap to believe – like Angel and Sophie – that teachers should want to help students learn, health workers who want help people heal, and other workers in service delivery should want to deliver that service. But how do you attract and motivate those passionate public servants? Here is some recent research that sheds light on the topic.
 

How improving fisheries' governance in West Africa improves fishermen’s livelihoods

Stephen Akester's picture
© Stephen Akester/World Bank
© Stephen Akester/World Bank

I first met Solomon in the early 1980s on Sierra Leone’s Plantain Island, when he volunteered his canoe for a trial program modernizing sails to reduce dependence on petrol for outboard engines. Solomon soon became my friend, and I followed his fortunes and struggles as a fisherman working on Yawri Bay.

Solomon died before he could see the positive outcomes in sustainable fisheries management in West Africa. I especially wish he could have reveled in recent reduction in illegal fishing and large scale industrial trawlers that had taken away his livelihood. Instead, the narrative of his life captures the harsh existence of fishing communities and the added burdens they have had to bear as successive governments failed to manage the once limitless fishing on which they depend. 

Sri Lanka at 70: Looking back and forward

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture
A view from the Independence day parade.At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
A view from the 2018 Independence Day parade. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation. Credit: World Bank

Like many Sri Lankans across the country, I joined Sri Lanka’s 70th Independence Day festivities earlier this month. This was undoubtedly a joyful moment, and proof of the country’s dynamism and stability. At 70, Sri Lanka has accomplished a lot in its seven decades as an independent nation.
 
The country’s social indicators, a measure of the well-being of individuals and communities, rank among the highest in South Asia and compare favorably with those in middle-income countries. In the last half-century, better healthcare for mothers and their children has reduced maternal and infant mortality to very low levels.
 
Sri Lanka’s achievements in education have also been impressive. Close to 95 percent of children now complete primary school with an equal proportion of girls and boys enrolled in primary education and a slightly higher number of girls than boys in secondary education.
 
The World Bank has been supporting Sri Lanka’s development for more than six decades. In 1954, our first project, Aberdeen-Laxapana Power Project, which financed the construction of a dam, a power station, and transmissions lines, was instrumental in helping the young nation meet its growing energy demands, boost its trade and develop light industries in Colombo, and provide much-needed power to tea factories and rubber plantations. In post-colonial Sri Lanka, this extensive electrical transmission and distribution project aimed to serve new and existing markets and improve a still fragile national economy.
 
Fast forward a few decades and Sri Lanka in 2018 is a far more prosperous and sophisticated country than it was in 1954 and, in many ways, has been a development success story. Yet, the island nation still faces some critical challenges as it strives to transition to another stage of its development and become a competitive upper middle-income country.
 
Notably, the current overreliance on the public-sector as the main engine for growth and investment, from infrastructure to healthcare, is reaching its limits.  With one of the world’s lowest tax to gross domestic product (GDP) ratios -- 12% in 2016, down from 24% in 1978 —Sri Lanka’s public sector is now facing serious budget constraints and the country needs to look for additional sources of finance to boost and sustain its growth.
 
As outlined in its Vision 2025, the current government has kickstarted an ambitious reform agenda to help the country move from a public investment to a more private investment growth model to enhance competitiveness and lift all Sri Lankans’ standards of living.
 
Now is the time to steer this vision into action. This is urgent as Sri Lanka is one of the world’s most protectionist countries and one of the hardest to start and run a business. As it happens, private foreign investment is much lower than in comparable economies and trade as a proportion of GDP has decreased from 88% in 2000 to 50% in 2016. Reversing this downward trend is critical for Sri Lanka to meet its development aspirations and overcome the risk of falling into a permanent “middle-income trap.”

Improving public service delivery through local collective action

Xavier Gine's picture

In the past two decades, development policy has aimed to involve communities in the development process by encouraging the active participation of communities in the design and implementation of projects or the allocation of local resources. The World Bank alone has provided more than $85 billion for participatory development since the early 2000s.

Cash Transfers Increase Trust in Local Government

David Evans's picture

2018 will likely mark a turning point for the global economy. For the first time since 2008, the negative global output gap – defined as the difference between the levels of actual output and output if operating at full capacity – is expected to close. As the output gap closes in advanced economies, central banks are likely to normalize monetary policy after a decade of exceptional easing. With this anticipated withdrawal of stimulus by advanced economies, emerging market and developing economy policymakers need to remain alert to the potential for adverse spillovers.

Output gaps are closing

In 2018, for the first time since 2008, the negative global output gap is expected to be closed.

Source: World Bank staff estimates.
Notes: Output gaps calculated using multivariate filter. Global, regional, and group output gaps are calculated using constant 2010 U.S. dollar GDP as weights. The sample includes 15 advanced economies (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States) and 23 EMDEs (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam). 2018 GDP is forecast. Dashed lines are 95 percent confidence interval bounds computed from the Kalman smoother state variances. Global lower and upper bounds are obtained as GDP-weighted averages of individual country lower and upper bounds.

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